Local News Aug 11-18

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Including the waste war hots up, repairs in Victoria Park, planning in East Garston, gravel in Thatcham, a champion in Marlborough, parish boundaries in Swindon, horticulture in Hungerford, ducks in Eastbury, steam update, summer activities, political honours, Britain’s top ten landlords, another tumble-dryer warning, good causes celebrated, police and roadwork updates, the Fabs in full flight, Mr Pink’s narrow escape and the size of an old brewer’s barrel.

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Click on the following links for details of planned roadworks in West Berkshire, the Wantage area, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Swindon. I’ve noticed recently that some road-side signs referring to rad closures are a good deal less specific than they might be. The A338 is closed just south of Wantage for sewer repairs but judging by the signs near the motorway you might believe that the whole road was shut north of Shefford Woodlands.

Click on the following links for neighbourhood police updates in West Berkshire (August’s update here for Hungerford and Lambourn; here for Newbury; here for Newbury Outer; here for Thatcham and area; here for Bucklebury & Downlands) & North Hampshire  and police advice for South Oxfordshire & Wiltshire.

Within the next six West Berkshire Council will be sending all its residents a permit without which they won’t be able to use the recycling facilities at Newtown Road and Padworth. Residents of other councils will from 25 September be unable to use these centres. I do hope this isn’t a foretaste of how our relationshops with other European countries will be conducted post-brexit. This ‘inter-council cross-border cost-cutting waste war’ as the Newbury Weekly News describes it, is the result of West Berkshire’s termination of its contribution towards the Smallmead centre earlier this year: predictable tit-for-tat cold-war-style retaliations from other councils followed.

Newbury MP Richard Benyon has defended David Cameron against attacks that his resignation honours list was another example of ‘cronyism’ (a claim repeated each time the subject raises its head), arguing that politicians and their advisors deserved to have their success rewarded, much as footballers and actors do. (Clearly Mr Benyon doesn’t agree with Enoch Powell’s much-quoted maxim that all political careers end in failure). Well, yes and no. Success in politics is a rather subjective matter and many articles, including in Private Eye, after such a list has been announced often suggest alternative interpretations of some of the recipients’ careers. In any event, it’s to hoped that the exercise of power and the salary received should be its own reward, although this is clearly not the case. The whole system of honours with their anachronistic names like order of the British Empire is, I suppose, reasonably harmless. There is, however, a real difference between between being given a medal and an acronym that might make it slightly easier to book a table in a posh restaurant and being given a life peerage which includes a place in that bafflingly wierd part of our law-making process, the House of Lords.  There have been about 90 life peers created since 2010. It’s been suggested that your chances of joining them are increased if you make large political donations but maybe this is a co-incidence.

As well as having Britain’s second-widest high street, Marlborough now has another claim to fame: the town’s Mike Tupman is now the Champion Town Crier of Wiltshire.

Still in Marlborough, plans have recently been approved for 175 homes to be built on Crown estate land near the business park. The local council will be hoping this proceeds more smoothly than has the Sandleford development further east in Newbury.

The mention of the Crown Estate and the recent death of the property magnate the Duke of Westminster made me think about who the country’s biggest landowners are. The crown, the church and a few obscure (to me at least) Scottish lairds all seemed likely candidates for the podium. I also remembered some story about how at one time you could walk from Cambridge to London without leaving land owned by Trinity College, though I suspect this was rubbish. I dialed up the interweb on my computer-thingy and asked the question. The results surprised me, and might surprise you. According to Country Life (and they should know, I’d have thought), the top ten are – in reverse order, to make it more exciting – the Duke of Atholl’s trusts, The National Trust for Scotland, The Duke of Buccleugh (god knows how that is pronounced – ‘Beeloff’ or ‘Buckler’, probably), the RSPB, the Crown Estate, various utilities such as water companies and, at number four, pension funds. And so to the medal positions: the bronze goes to the Ministry of the Defence; the silver to the National Trust; and the gold, by some distance, to the Forestry Commission: the FC has over four times as much land as does the National Trust. Now we know. No mention of Trinity College anywhere.

Debate continues about the wisdom or otherwise of permitting gravel to be extracted by Grundon in Thatcham. This seems a bit like the fracking debate: do the risks of extracting something we need from an increasingly crowded country outweigh the risks? I don’t have a clue what the answer is. We need some more gravel on our drive but I don’t want to see houses in Thatcham or anywhere else flooded just so I can get it a bit more cheaply. There’s a long letter on the subject in this week’s Newbury Weekly News.

Confirmation in this week’s Newbury Weekly News that Hunter Page’s proposed plans for 20 houses in East Garston (as mentioned in this column two weeks ago) are continuing and the a formal proposal is to be expected soon. In the meantime you can view and comment on the current proposals by clicking here.

A settlement has finally been reached between Newbury Town Council and the Parkway developers over damage that was done to Victoria Park during the retail centre’s construction and, according to the council, work will soon be starting on rectifying these issues. The cost will be ‘entirely funded by the legal settlement.’

I mentioned last week about a tumble dryer starting a fire which destroyed a house in East Challow. The tumble curse has struck again, this time at the Farringdon hotel run by Masterchef finalist Nick Bennett.

If you’re involved in a community project in need of funding, the Active Communities funding programme may be able to help. Visit their website here for more information.

Steam enthusiasts should be able to see the LMS Jubilee 4‑6‑0 no. 45699 Galatea hauling the West Somerset Steam Express which is scheduled to depart westwards from Newbury at 10.22am on Saturday 13 August, returning at around 9.30pm. All details are subject to change: click here for the official site.

On a similar theme, click here for information about the Lambourn Valley Railway exhibition in Lambourn.

And still with railways, a staggering fact I learned this week: of the 50 busiest railway stations in the world, 45 of them are in Japan.

There’s a scheme organised by Active Women which enables women in the Vale of White Horse area to take part in free exercise classes in August and September. Click here for more information.

With Britain’s demographics changing all the time, administrative boundaries need to be constantly changed to reflect these. The latest to have a go at this thankless but necessary task is Swindon Council which recently announced plans to reform the boundaries of parishes under its control, and create several new ones. You can have a look at the plans here.

And staying in Swindon, there will be a children’s storytelling event at Swindon Library on Friday 12 August.

Phoenix Enterprises in Swindon helps people with mental illness or learning difficulties gain experience and confidence and helps them find employment. The organisation is urgently looking for new trustees and local business support. For more information, click here.

If you want to start your own business or grow and existing one then PopUp Business School may be able to provide some ideas at this free event in Newbury on Tues 23 and Wed 24 August.

And still in Newbury, you can have a free check of your child car seats, which could be a life-saver, on Saturday 3 September.

If you need some ideas as to how to entertain your family (and yourself) over the summer holidays, have a look at the What’s On section of the Penny Post website and, in particular, at this special section, What to do in the Summer Holidays. If you have any suggestions as to things that should be added or any corrections to any information we’ve provided, please add a comment at the foot of the relevant post.

The 2016 Lambourn Carnival takes place on Sunday 28 August – click here for more information about this year’s event.

Meanwhile, a couple of miles downstream the Eastbury Duck Race will take place on Sunday 14 August in and around The Eastbury Plough.

The Hungerford Horticultural and Handicraft Show takes place on Saturday 20 August at the Royal British Legion. For more information email belinda@haha-hungerford.org.uk

If you’re interested in being part of the Boxford History Project please contact joy@appleton.uk.net for more information.

A reminder about the summer activities of the town-twinning associations of Newbury and Hungerford. The Hungerford association is still looking for some extra hosts for the visit of the Ligueil association over the bank holiday weekend.

A number of good causes have received valuable financial support this week, including: Cystic Fibrosis Trust (thanks to the Tour de Berkshire); NSPCC Wales (thanks to the Harrow); the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (thanks to Hungerford Rotary Club); The Brain Tumour Charity (thanks Newbury’s Music in the Market Place); Clic Sargent (thanks to Swindon’s teenage cake-makers); numerous local charitable and voluntary groups (thanks to the Greenham Common Trust)

So to this week’s Song of the Week.  I’ve had at least one Beatles’ one already but now I’m going to have another. In a way it wasn’t a Beatles song at all but a cassette demo John Lennon made in  1977 and which Yoko Ono handed over to the others when she discovered it in the mid ’90s. That a hissy mono voice-and-piano recording was turned into the basis of a pretty decent production owes  much to producer Jeff Lynne, a long-time Beatles fan who must have pinched himself several times at the realisation that he was supervising them in the studio. It’s in some ways a slight song by their standards but soars because of the circumstances of its recording, the people who played on it, George Harrison’s slide work and the video, worth watching closely to see how many references to other Beatles’ songs you can spot. There are at least 20. So, here we go – Free as a Bird. Brings a tear to my eye every time I listen to it.

And the Quiz Question of the Week comes round again. This one’s from the Blue Ball in Kintbury and was a tie-breaker in their most recent quiz (these happen from 8pm on the last Sunday of the month). It was How many gallons are there in an old Brewer’s Barrel? My guess when Stuart Hunter told me this was ’48’ and I can reveal that it’s wrong, so cross that option off your list. Last week’s was Who is the only major character still alive at the end of the film Reservoir Dogs? The answer is Mr Pink, who snuck out of the lock-up with the bag of jewels at the very end,  just after the Mexican stand-off and just before the police arrive. He may have been killed off-screen but if so Mr Tarantino isn’t telling. (If you haven’t seen this movie I do earnestly recommend it. Yes, it’s violent and, yes, there’s some fruity language but it’s a wonderfully well-told tale which happens to involve these things. Several stand-out performances as well. In fact, it’s full of stand-out performances.)

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Brian Quinn
Local News August

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